Las Vegas Sun

July 31, 2014

Currently: 94° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Political Memo:

Once a taboo topic in state GOP, drug decriminalization has some talking

Voters might be wondering if Republicans are smoking something these days after two ranking Republicans recently supported exploring whether marijuana and other drugs should be decriminalized, if not legalized.

For years, supporters of legalizing pot have viewed Nevada as a potential stomping ground, hoping the libertarian streak that runs through Democrats and Republicans in this state would be kind to their efforts.

So far, however, they’ve failed at the ballot box.

And it’s never been a mantle that politicians have been fond of taking up. An effort, for example, to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Nevada failed in the Legislature last year.

In the past, the issue has been marginalized as one only hippies, teenagers and rap stars cared about. Now, however, it appears to be taking root in what many might have considered a hostile environment — the Republican Party.

To wit: Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, floated the idea this month of decriminalizing some drug offenses to save money on incarceration.

Then, the Nevada Republican Party’s new chairman, Michael McDonald, told a GOP podcast host recently “there’s a good argument” for legalizing pot.

And last month, a contingent of Republican delegates at the Washoe County convention tried — and failed because time ran out to debate it — to insert a plank supportive of legalizing marijuana in the party’s platform.

The effort at the party level is a reflection of the in-roads GOP presidential hopeful Ron Paul’s supporters have made in the party structure over the past four years. Beyond seeing their candidate elected, many Paul supporters are probably most passionate about seeing their beloved herb legalized.

Paul believes states, not the federal government, should regulate drug laws, and has spoken plainly on the fact he believes alcohol to be more destructive than pot. His position has earned him a legion of young followers.

Four years ago, after a contentious showdown with party leaders at the state convention, Paul supporters made the concerted decision to begin working within the party machine rather than trying to fight it from the outside. Since then, they’ve won seats on party central committees and influenced everything from rules governing the caucuses to the election of party chairmen.

Now it appears they’ve begun to influence policy positions, although their outcome on the legalizing marijuana platform will likely be as successful as their ability to throw the Republican nomination to Paul.

Although both Hickey and McDonald have spoken in favor of decriminalizing some drug offenses, they have individual reasons for doing so, unrelated to the impassioned pleas of the new rank and file marching on various Republican central committees.

In a brief interview last week, McDonald said he thinks medical marijuana should be legal and more accessible after experiencing his mother’s difficult death from cancer.

“When you see someone you love suffer like that, I think there’s an argument to be made,” he said. “I’m a police officer. I am as anti-drug as you can imagine. But marijuana medically can help someone in so much pain.”

Hickey said he’s not an advocate of making any drug more easily or widely available. Rather, he wants to know if Nevada can attack the drug problem in a more cost-efficient manner through treatment rather than incarceration.

“Certainly, some of the positions of Ron Paul and libertarian-leaning Republicans resonate with a fair number of Nevadans,” Hickey said. “But this is unrelated. I am not an advocate necessarily, and I’m certainly not for condoning the use or the abuse of drugs, which I find to be rather personally self-destructive.”

Indeed, the recent focus on legalizing marijuana has made some Republicans uncomfortable.

“I was surprised to hear the assemblyman mention it and McDonald mention it,” Washoe County GOP Chairman Dave Buell said. “Let’s face it, those aren’t huge issues this election cycle. Too many people are unemployed and have homes on the brink to care about marijuana.

“And I certainly don’t think the mainstream Republican Party is ready to go push that.”

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 16 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. I am all for decriminalization of drug use as long as the death penalty will be applied when the drugies are caught driving under the influence and the drugies are not allowed to have drivers licenses.
    There would also be a bar to employment as these people are too much of a hazard to others.

  2. "Voters might be wondering if Republicans are smoking something these days after two ranking Republicans recently supported exploring whether marijuana and other drugs should be decriminalized, if not legalized."

    I have my own thoughts about de-criminalizing marijuana, but I actually think we're onto something here with the Tea/Republicans smoking dope.

    I encourage them all to go beyond the experimentation stage and go into full scale research.

    We need for Tea/Republicans, not only in Nevada, but all over this great country to smoke marijuana frequently and often.

    Perhaps that will make them grasp reality and not live in the far right neo-conservative dreamworld they live in now.

    So, having said that, I volunteer the entire Tea/Republican Party be used as guinea pigs in order to come up with a learned decision regarding this matter.

    It might solve the divisiveness in our politics right now.

    Get them more worried about where to buy a package of Doritos and a Coke. More than trying to figure out where, when and how to assault women with stupid laws.

    Hell, I might be onto something here....

  3. It's about time, the war on drugs as marijuana can't be won.

  4. How much money does the US spend on the war on drugs? We have currently spent $13.5 billion this year: http://www.drugsense.org/cms/wodclock. How much have we spent on housing prisoners for drug offenses? We have arrested half a million people this year for drug offences, at a cost of $47,000/inmate per year. Can you still get drugs? ABSOLUTELY! The war on drugs is not working! If heroin is legal tomorrow, are you going to use heroin? REALLY think about it...who profits from the war on drugs?
    I am voting for Ron Paul! End the wars!

  5. "Voters might be wondering if Republicans are smoking something these days after two ranking Republicans recently supported exploring whether marijuana and other drugs should be decriminalized, if not legalized. . . . .An effort, for example, to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Nevada failed in the Legislature last year."

    Damon -- big difference between decriminalizing and legalizing. But, I want to know why you ignored the fact the legislature was Constitutionally mandated in 1998 to make marijuana available for medicinal purposes. Check that @ http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Const/NVConst...

    Every time a legislator takes his or her oath of office it includes "The legislature shall provide by law for" -- and that's the end of the debate you presented here.

    "I am all for decriminalization of drug use as long as the death penalty will be applied when the drugies are caught driving under the influence and the drugies are not allowed to have drivers licenses."

    nez212 -- and I'm all for the death penalty when your ilk gets caught driving around with your pet in your lap, or kids in the car, or fiddling with your dashboard toys, anything impairing you from 100% attention to driving your motorized killing machine on the public right of way.

    "I have my own thoughts about de-criminalizing marijuana..."

    "It's about time..."

    Colin, its2hot -- I'd be interested on your opinions after you read that link from our Constitution. The legislature so far has dragged their feet on this far too long, to the detriment of many.

    "After the coffee things ain't so bad." -- Henry Herbert Knibbs, cowboy poet, d. 1945

  6. It is time to eliminate governmental programs that are ineffective and wasting precious taxpayer money. Ending the so called, "Drug War," is a start. Limit the power and control of the FDA is yet another. Insurance companies and Pharmaceutical companies are actually dictating and writing consumer laws anymore, and that needs to end. With the 'Informational Age' most all citizens can better explore their medical options with some guidance from their healthcare doctor. Let the People make informed choices about their own life's health and well-being.

    With so many suffering from pain, it makes sense to decriminalize, regulate, tax, and allow medical marijuana. It is a renewable good, that can be grown and processed locally here in the USA, rather than being hostage to world supply. There are models throughout the world our lawmakers can study for the best framework---there is NO need to reinvent the wheel here.

    As we have an increasing aging citizenry, and others who are suffering due to conditions or accidents, availability of marijuana will drive the cost of healthcare of pain management DOWN. Financial resources could be reallocated to other health needs.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  7. KillerB:

    The law that is in effect is a waste as I see it. Politicians write laws then pass those laws that kowtow to their future campaign contributions and their greed, not what's best for the taxpayers.

    Marijuana is no different that alcohol yet we the taxpayers let them spend our money foolishly prosecuting and then paying for free housing which in simply a political hot topic crime that will never be stopped.

    It just amazes me that prior to people getting elected, they might have had a brain and used common sense and for reasons that baffle me, once elected, they're brain-dead and really have no clue what real life people are doing to thinking. I often wonder if there is a prescription that only elected officials are prescribed, I call it a stupid pill that is handed out every day to them and for reasons they know, they take their pill and like it. I would like to see whoever has them and is giving them to all of them to please stop it.

  8. Comment removed by moderator. ALL CAPS

  9. "Marijuana is no different that alcohol..."

    its2hot -- yes it is. Alcoholic beverages are mentioned only once in our Constitution in the context of tax exemption.

    The Constitution is the organic law by which a state is created and empowered to exist. All law passed in this state originates with that instrument and cannot conflict with it. We the people instructed the legislature what to do on marijuana and it apparently has refused to do it years later. Have a look their oaths @ http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Const/NVConst...

    Perjury is a felony. So who are the criminals now?

    "Makes you feel ashamed to live in a land where justice is a game." -- Bob Dylan "Hurricane"

  10. $14 billion spent this year for the 'war on drugs' and for $5 in the red, the conservatives want to curtail the U.S. Post Office and lay off letter carriers.

    Right! Republicans are good at cutting back essential services for money to buy guns, black helicopters and jail time at $30,000/year in Nevada.

    The War on Drugs is like Clean Coal - the concept is alluring but the reality is nonsense.

  11. "How much money does the US spend on the war on drugs?"

    lots. lots and lots. and it's why weed is still illegal. too much money from enforcement to let go.

    "Marijuana is no different that alcohol"

    really? you ever see stoners getting in to fights after they've had a few? neither have I. ever see someone make a complete ass of themselves after toking up? neither have I. have you ever seen someone so out of it on weed they can't sit up straight? Nope. not me either.

    alcohol is an evil drug --- the worst one I've ever experimented with, and I've tried them all (literally).

    if weed is illegal alcohol should be that and way more.

    but if it were illegal how would John Boener get through the day? lol

  12. "if weed is illegal alcohol should be that and way more."

    vegas_tom -- more like "if alcohol is legal weed should be that and way more"

    The profound stupidity of marijuana laws is shown by the fact hemp is also illegal. For an excellent look at that check out "Hempsters: Plant the Seed" @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULy8UVGK_...

    "Tobacco, hemp, flax and cotton, are staple commodities." -- from Thomas Jefferson "The Works," vol. 3 (Notes on Virginia I, Correspondence 1780-1782), "A Notice Of The Mines And Other Subterraneous Riches; Its Trees, Plants, Fruits, &C."

  13. Cut the partisanship! Both sides are at fault here. If Republicrats were truly against bigger government and for individual freedom, they would have long ago worked to rid the U.S. of the onerous, wasteful & failed anti-drug laws. But, for Dumbocrats who want to micro-manage our lives, the "War on Drugs" is what they live for. It fits right in to their penchant to control our lives in all ways including the intake of salt, sugar, fats, fast food and freedom of speech. They never see a "problem" they can't fix by making it illegal, regulating it or throwing money at it. They are elitists and snobs! With all that, I say all of you morons who believe you are stronger than "recreational" drugs and can control them once you start "using" are whistling past the graveyard! Legalize them, yes, then tax them and try to educate the dorks who ingest them of their dangers before their minds are twisted into knots. From what I see in some of the posts, it's too late for them!

  14. "If Republicrats were truly against bigger government and for individual freedom, they would have long ago worked to rid the U.S. of the onerous, wasteful & failed anti-drug laws."

    lvfacts101 -- you seem to not know what this Discussion is about. The article isn't about changing U.S. law, it's about changing state law. Totally different things. You've also ignored any mention of Nevada's 14-year-old Constitutional mandate to make the benefits of cannabis available for medical needs.

    "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are 'I'm from your government and I'm here to help.'" -- the late President Ronald Reagan

  15. Many states have decriminalized cannabis and I never read of any real problems that has caused. The legal drugs Doctors prescribe are far worse. The amount of money spent for police work and jail time is not a very good public payback for the crime of possession of a small amount of cannabis

  16. Laurie: you asked if heroin was legal tomorrow, would you start using it? Looking at other things that became legal, the answer is yes, brain-damaged fools would use it. They made alcohol legal and now we have 10 million alcoholics in the US and this disease costs us billions every year. The war on drugs hasn't worked because the punishments are a joke.